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      “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
1744830.jpgAnd live like it’s heaven on earth.”
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep 61105.jpgbecause reality is finally better than your dreams.” ― Dr. Seuss
It was early morning, the period between awakening and sleeping.That period in the morning between the tail end of night and the early hours of dawn. In the mildly darkened room there is a large bed. A bedside drawer stands close to the almost six-foot sprawling bed. On the drawer is a digital bedside radio and clock. At the side of the room is a large bedroom chest, beside which is a big dressing table with a mirror.The air-conditioners hum silently and with the subdued lighting, the room evokes a cozy comfortable picture. Banke rolled across the bed half- asleep. She stretched her hand as if to touch a body beside her. In her sleepily awake stage, the realisation comes to her. There is nobody to touch. She stretched her hand again but it touched emptiness. Then she slowly woke up. She looked around the empty room. The thoughts flooded her mind:

 

The disagreement.The shouts and quarrels. The slamming of the door and his stomping out of the house.The screeching of the tyres on the gravel driveway. The emptiness of that night he went out coupled with the agony of waiting and her heart’s palpitations.The foreboding fear when for two days he did not come home.

The policeman’s visit that followed, then, the questions that followed:

“Are you Mrs. Bantale? When did you see your husband last? Did he tell you he would be going anywhere? Did you have a quarrel or misunderstanding?”

The barrage of questions. Then, the condolence visits. The carrying of the coffin and the elaborate military ceremonies she did not care for. Her crying, weeping, anguish and guilt followed by the burial. The images raced through her mind. She started crying, slowly and intermittently at first, then steadily and profusely, in her agony, her eyes strayed to the bedside clock: 3.00 am, always 3’0’clock. She wakes up to this replay of her agony.Today there seems to be a change. She can hear some noise. She rises from her bed and goes downstairs. She went into the guest room where her nephew, attending the nearby University, stays. She finds him sleeping fitfully. She went into the kitchen and combed all the sitting room. She couldn’t see anything.Then for some moment she sits alone in the darkened living room trying to hear noises or any movement she does not hear anything. Silence, total silence and tranquillity and stillness and absolute quiet. The silence weighs on her: the load of an urchin coming back from the farm heavily laden with farm products. She sat silently in the dark waiting for the noise she heard and that which brought her down. She did not hear anything. Not a drop of pin. NOTHING. She went to the window and peeped through it in order to look at the search – light – washed – compound whether there is anything moving.The only thing she saw was the security man standing immobile at his duty post. This gave her a sense of security. She puts on the living room light and searches again, but nothing. She was baffled. She sat down to think about it.Then she started dozing.

She trudged up to the bedroom and slept. She slept and dreamt:

It was in the morning of a Saturday. The Saturday they had planned for a picnic. It was the same week that Banji was promoted in his office.The promotion was rapid and it was clear to everybody that Banji though qualified for the promotion  was too young for the post he was promoted to. Anyway when Banji brought the letter the Wednesday of this Saturday, she was happy and that was when they planned the picnic.They found out that the Saturday falls on the second anniversary of their marriage. So it was a sort of double celebration.They had then decided that Wednesday to make it a double joy. One which will only be special and restricted to them alone.

They decided on visiting the Agbokim falls which was less than 100 kilometres from their station, Calabar. So early this Saturday morning, she was putting finishing touches to the food items they will be taking to the picnic. Upstairs she could hear the footsteps of her husband as he moved from the bathroom into the bedroom. Some minutes after, she had finished her chores. She called the steward to put the necessary materials into the boot of the Mercedes Benz 230s car in the garage. She went to take her bath. Some minutes after they were on their way to Agbokim near Ikom. They lost their way to the little village of Agbokim but after some time they were directed to the village. They saw the wonder of the Almighty. As they watched the water cascading down the hills of Agbokim they were suffused with the essence of nature.They found a place at the base of the water falls where they spread their towel. The atmosphere was cool.There were few people around, in fact two couples a white man and his wife and them. Banji took out his camera and started snapping pictures. He had always been an amateur photographer. After the photographic sessions they both watched the birds and listened to the sounds of the animals.As the sun started preparing to sink on the horizon, they sat together watching its descent. The white couple had then left…….

                                                                              ( to be continued)

 

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